Album review: Utada - This is the one

Album review: Utada - This is the one | Random J Pop

My future wife decided to record another English language album. I honestly didn't think she'd bother given the commercial failure of Exodus. But she has more in her for another English language album and Def Jam is up for keeping her on the roster to put it out. So who are us Hikki fans to argue!?

Hikaru's English albums give her a musical outlet to do all that stuff that she feels she's unable to do for her Japanese albums. Whilst Exodus was a drastic departure for Hikaru in terms of sound, This is the one features a little more of what we've had from Hikaru's Japanese releases. But we also get some surprises too, in the form of full on club bangers. "On and on" is a pleasant surprise. I love the song because Hikaru works a style she hasn't touched since her second Japanese album Distance. Hikaru takes what could've been a run of the mill club record and makes it unique via a cool and varied vocal performance which consists of yodelling: something she works to better effect than Gwen Stefani did on "Wind it up". She also spreads some cool lyrics across the song which include 'Honey's if you're gay, burn it up, like a gay parade'. I love how she took a line like that and threw it in a song like it's nothing, which it is. It's nothing! But many other US artists would be wary of even considering using such a line in one of their songs. The best way to describe this song would be Heart station's "Celebrate" with more of a edge and an urban twist. "Dirty desire" see's Hikaru getting mad kinky. Actually, kinky is an understatement. The song is straight up X-Rated. Some of the "Dirty desire"'s lyrics include "Working a 9 to 5, I'm thinking 6 and 9's" and "I don't want just a bite, I want the full size". Hikaru obviously needs a man back in her life, and I'm offering myself to her. I have been for almost 10 years! Hikaru's voice is incredibly sexy and you don't realise how much so until she speaks in English. I damn near touched myself when I heard "I know you've thought about it...". The beat is hot, with producer Tricky Stewart working the same horrid, yet 'gotta love 'em' synth lines that ran obnoxiously through his biggest production to date, Rihanna's "Umbrella" and also the single that never was: "Breakin' dishes". Def Jam either need to make this a single or issue this to clubs as a buzz track. It'd go down well.

The other uptempo's aren't quite as good though. "Automatic part II" isn't a blip on the radar of the awesome original which featured on Hikaru's record breaking debut album First love. The song is awful. It sounds like a fan remixed the theme song to Moesha, badly. Hikaru should've kept the beat the same as the original and just re-worked the lyrics into English. "Poppin'" sounds like a song from a Nickelodeon detective show. Not cool at all. Ywo of the absolute worst songs on the album.

Hikaru treads more familiar territory with all of the Stargate productions. "Come back to me" had me worried, because it saw Hikaru pretty much jumping on a bandwagon and delivering an anybody song which borders on mediocre. But thankfully the other Stargate productions are much more unique and distinctly Hikaru Utada, whilst giving her that pop accessibility she was going for. "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI" sounds like something you'd expect to find on one of Hikaru's Japanese releases. A brilliantly quirky song. "Apple & cinnamon" is a great song that I've already played to death. As soon as the song opens you just know you're going to fall for it. This right here has 'RELEASE ME AS A SINGLE' written all over it. "This one (Crying like a child)" isn't a song that grabbed me at first, but soon held me a choke hold and wouldn't let go. A beautiful song about a complicated love, strewn with a heart felt vocal, guitars and punctuating 808's. Again: single potential. I was actually surprised to find that Stargate produced it the song, as it sounds like it was written by The Dream and produced by Tricky - as the chorus is very "Umbrella" like. "Me muero" has Stargate utilizing the drum sequences that has featured in many a Stargate production from "Irreplaceable" onwards. I've been on a one man mission to have the drum pattern banned, because it truly has been overused. At the very least, every other aspect of "Me muero" is far removed from "Irreplaceable", "Go on girl", "With you" and all the other re-hashes. The song takes on a 60's lounge feel. The song shouldn't work so well, but it does. Hikaru sells the song with charm and quirk in spades, and some cool ad-libs towards the end which see's her tapping into a tone and vibe to her voice I never knew she had in her. Not my favourite song on the album, and the lyrics are a bit too weird at times - but it's a song that I do think is nice.

The production on This is the one is incredibly polished, something that Exodus's wasn't. Whilst the Tricky Stewart productions are well produced, they pale in comparison to the Stargate contributions. Tricky's style doesn't always run in line with what you'd expect from Hikaru, and not always in a good way. "Taking my money back" sounds like a left over Mariah Carey song. Hikaru never should've gone with it, because she doesn't suit the sound and she sounds as though she's struggling to sing to the beat. I was sceptical initially of Stargate handling so much of the album, but I'm now wishing they'd done the whole entire thing. Their productions are definitely the highlights. The brilliant thing about the Stargate productions is that not only do they they sound very much like Hikaru Utada songs, but lyrically they're incredibly candid - "Apple & cinnamon" and "This one (Crying like a child)" in particular. Vocally Hikaru sounds really nice and capable, and not like a warbling child as she did on quite a few of Exodus's songs. The harmonies are tight and well layered and her ad-libs are nice. Ad-libbing isn't something Hikaru does often when singing in Japanese, so it's nice to hear her go there with them on this album.
Whilst This is the one isn't as refined as some of her Japanese releases, it at least showcases her to Western audiences in a much more commercial light than Exodus did, which makes Hikaru's music more approachable. But this comes at the expense of a diluted form of Hikaru Utada to that of what core fans of her Japanese releases have enjoyed for years. And for this reason, This is the one comes up short. The songs here which are good, are great. But the album as a whole is pretty lacklustre and is a blip on an otherwise strong discography.

RATING: 6 / 10

Album highlights:
■ On and on
■ Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI ★ J's fave
■ Apple & cinnamon
■ This one (Crying like a child)
■ Dirty desire
■ Come back to me
■ Me muero


  1. I will personally hunt down LA Reid if they do not release Apple And Cinnamon as a single. They really should have gone with it as the lead single and just scrapped Come Back To Me altogether.

    Should've been: A&C > Dirty Desire > On And On

  2. Sounds awesome, I can't wait to hear the full thing.

  3. Yay! Your review is finally here! Thanks for the interesting read.

    Whilst I don't agree with everything you said on the review, I pretty much agree with the 'album highlights' part.

    I think Hikaru should release an English double A-side next; yes there's only 10 tracks but 2 tracks are better to put across her artistic talents than a single song.

    Thanks once more for your LJ comments!

  4. Alright, what we've all been waiting for :) I think the album is strong musically but lyrically not as much. My favorites are Me muero and One. I think they're the best written songs. While the music to A & C is great the lyrics are too repetitive. It just doesn't sound like the song is finished. Taking my Money Back, why in the hell did they even allow that on the disc. I'm not thrilled with Dirty Desire either. Anyway I think it's a pretty good effort and with real promotion this time. I just wish her live performances had been better.

  5. Glad you gave Utada a fair score.

    My favourites were On and on
    ■ Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI
    ■ Apple & Cinnamon
    ■ Taking My Money Back
    ■ Dirty Desire
    ■ Come Back to me


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